Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Yeast is Read

So were the editors of Nature interested in publishing an opinion piece about the legal ramifications of splicing the genes for psilocybin synthesis into Tinea pedis fungi, to produce a hallucinogenic variety of athletes' foot? WERE THEY BOGROLL. The suggestion met with the editorial cold shoulder. Followed in quick succession by the editorial tepid ankle, and then the editorial knee to the groin.

This is despite Nature's recent decision to grant space for a couple of Political Science lecturers to chin-stroke about using yeasts to synthesise opiates, which is going to happen Real Soon Now. Different researchers have engineered yeasts which perform separate stages of the metabolic pathway of banging together a molecule of morphine, which means that combining all the stages in a single home-brew-kit is only a matter of detail, right?
Such are the awesome Political Science powers of extrapolation and hypothesisation that questions of 'concentration' and 'purity' evaporate in a subjunctive cloud of "Let's Pretend", with the simple word "feasible" exfolatiating into such predictions as
users would need to drink only 1–2 millilitres of the liquid to obtain a standard prescribed dose
It is not clear whether the Nature editors couldn't be arsed contacting anyone with actual expertise in biosynthesis to opine on the practicalities, or whether they reached out but failed to receive sufficiently hair-on-fire responses. How could they possibly have predicted that lazy churnalists would skip over hedging qualifiers like "feasible" and "in principle", and pebble-dash the story with an extra layer of hysteria stucco? -- coming up with headlines like
Home-brewed heroin? Scientists create yeast that can make sugar into opiates
The rules of the Let's Pretend game allowed the authors to hypothesise that this in-principle opiate production will be undetectable and the pressure cookers bioreactors will be untraceable, meanwhile stipulating that criminal syndicates and the Government Revenue Men will lack any advances in their own capacity for detecting and tracing, and what then of your drug regulations? Then they realised that it was 2.30 a.m. and they had the munchies, so they sent the intern out to the all-night takeaway for burgers.

I am concerned by their lack of faith in my hypothetical dowsing-based detection technology.


rurritable said...

I've tried unsuccessfully to eat a spinach salad of a scale that would mimic the effects of a Tylenol 3. To this day my wife still playfully refers to me as "Trail O' Green."

rhwombat said...

Actually, I believe it was the West (Coast of the US - specifically those dam' San Franciscans) that had a red tide, when the wonerful US govmint used Serratia marcescens as a pseudo-biological weapon, causing both a "red tide" and a spike in Serratiabacteraemia.
Also: opiates ain't hallucinogens. Recreational, yes, but hallucinogens - nope (to not repeat our Prime Mustelid, Toady Rabid).

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I went off on a tangent, and CRIKEY.

Is there a full size version of that cartoon somewheres? I tried the great gazoogle, honest...

JP said...

I would like to subscribe to your Cookbook.

rhwombat said...

ittdgy: ...ah. The Past. Another country. Same pain.